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Just trying to make a difference

In the summer of 2005, my kids and I visited the Philippines. Part of our visit is the daylong immersion program where we visited families who live in the squatters’ community.

Philippines is a third-world country. There are people that don’t even attend schools because they can’t afford transportation, lunch and books. Mom, and the kids have the privilege of helping out 5 families. For just about 30 cents a day, the kids are sponsoring economically challenged children so that they can attend school. The commitment is a long-term commitment– from Pre-K to College.

Maiet Biliran started the SISBA program – (Sanngar Integrasi Seni dan Budaya Asia) - Center for Integrated Asian Arts and Culture. The goal is to reinforce to the parents and the children the importance of education. Both the parent and the child have a responsibility to succeed in the academic environment. It’s not an easy task because the environment they live in does not fully encourage achieving such goals.

This summer will be the 5th year of our sponsorship. A few kids have dropped out of the program. The new group of kids are doing well in school and have sent us letters and updates that are just great Easter Basket treats!

These children have made a difference in my children’s lives.
I will be posting next time some of the letters from the scholars and their mothers.

As we celebrate Easter Sunday tomorrow, I can’t help but share that a little gesture from all of us can definitely put a smile in a person’s life –

Just little acts of random kindness, makes the world a better place.
Here are some of my own crumbcatchers’ reflections:

From my 3rd child)
In between the dates of June 22nd and July 13th I visited my family in the Philippines for the second time. During my first visit to the Philippines, my aunt Tita Maiet introduced me to her program called SISBA, which means in English as Integrated Arts and Culture Learning Center – Asia. It is a place where children from economically challenged families are sponsored to go to school. Each child that you sponsor is called your scholar.

The sponsor gives $85 a year in order for their scholar to be given an education. However, if the scholar does not get a grade of at least 80 he does not pass the SISBA grade and can’t be sponsored again until his grades improve.

I was given a chance to sponsor a child and I accepted. My scholar’s name is Jason and I sponsored him for one year, but he did not work hard enough to meet the grade requirementes. This made me very upset because I remembered how his mother felt when I decided to sponsor her son. I remember she shook my hand intensely; she cried with glee and thanked me repeatedly. To see that she had been let down was unbearable. So I was given a new scholar.

On my second trip to the Philippines, I went to the homes of my family in the squatter area. The squatter area is a place set aside for poor people to build their own homes from scratch. It was terrible seeing the squatters. They were dirty, hard and uncomfortable. It made me feel good to help people who had almost nothing. I saw houses with no color or form of warmth, but amazingly everyone stayed optimistic. I truly admire that.
SISBA is important because it gives those who have almost nothing a second chance. If their children can get educations, they can make money and reshape their lives. What is more important than that? I believe that there should be more sponsors to help children get educations. This was the SISBA experience “

(From my second child)
People in America take many things in life for granted. This is because the country is so privileged. One of these privileges is education. Education is very important for everyone, but education is not available for everyone. Here in America, school is paid for easily, and everyone under the age of sixteen is forced by law to go to school. However, the privilege of education is not given in some countries.
In countries such as the Philippines, some families find it hard to pay for their children’s education. That is where SISBA comes in. SISBA helps these families pay for their children’s education by finding sponsors for the children. These sponsors pay eighty-five dollars a year for the children’s tuition. They pay for the children’s tuition up until law school.
Unfortunately, not all children can get the SISBA scholarship. Children who receive the scholarship must obtain an average score of eighty percent or higher in their schoolwork. If the minimum score of eighty is not met, the child gets dropped from the scholarship program. The child however can try again the next year. It may seem harsh, but it is only fair; it is a serious situation with certain standards that must be met. If the sponsors work very hard to pay for the children, the scholars must work very hard to make the grade. This is to ensure that the scholars work hard.
SISBA gives children in the Philippines the opportunities that children in America receive. SISBA lets children from poor families get an education. Education is important for the individuals, and for the economy as a whole. Without education, the economy would fall, and
people would not have the knowledge to do certain jobs. I believe that all people should have the right to an education, and SISBA helps give that right to these people.

(From my oldest child)
It was a rainy morning that day. The clouds obscured the sun from this part of the island. The coconut trees moved dully with the wind and the dust blew in our faces, smothering without warning as we crouched with two others in a cramped tricycle.
“This is a serious matter,” we were told, and yet as soon as we stepped on new ground we were greeted with smiles.
We were welcomed into their homes, although I felt like an intruder upon unknown land. However I felt, it didn’t matter; we were here to see the kids. We walked under dripping umbrellas through narrow, crooked alleys with rectangular openings that one from the states would not call a door. The dirty ground was soaked from the faulty alley covering, and the walls were made of blocks of cement. The homes were either cluttered or vacant, and everywhere ran little children. Then I saw her. I could pick her smile out from any crowd. She’d gotten older now, grown so big. She looked different, but I knew she was the same little girl I met one year ago.
We had come to see her and her family, along with other children we sponsored in the neighborhood. It was like a check up but with more welcome and sweet treats. Upon our check up, we met up with the little children and their family. Mostly, their mothers were present; the men were either outside or at work. We were given turon and buko juice, Filipino sweets, and we chatted as the little children smiled and giggled with each other.

“Have they been practicing?” my aunt asked one of the mothers.

“Everyday.” They were referring to the song and dance the children learned in school.
Later that day, after we left our scholars’ homes and returned to our own, we were greeted again by the same smiles. The children and their mothers had put on a show for us, which they had been practicing for, along with their other academic studies. After a round of songs and dances, and a few of our encouraging words, we joined them in another round of their recited songs. We saw our efforts at work. We saw how much our children had blossomed since last year. They were shy then, but now they were open and extrovert. They were little then, but now they were growing children. So much has changed within their own selves, yet the one thing that remained was their illuminating smiles.
It’s amazing what one year and $85 can do. With that little money, my sponsored little girl was able to attend school where she even assists her teacher in teaching the other students.
We take money for granted here, but its only because we are so privileged. Other countries are not, unfortunately, and even more unfortunate, not many people are trying to help. Outside our country there are so many problems that people face, from homelessness to prostitution, and it all results from poverty. The main problem that stems from poverty is lack of education, which was something our sponsored children were exposed to before the SISBA (Sanggar Integrasi Sei dan Budaya Asia) Scholarship program. They all live in squatter homes and without our help they would not be able to get a proper education that would immensely help them attain better lives. With our money going towards their education, my little girl, her friends and other fortunate children can finally work towards higher goals and know that they can achieve them. They no longer have to be subjected to the horrors of homelessness, prostitution, and any other terrors that come out of poverty. They can attain actual jobs in the city and they too can make a difference in their world. They now can live up to a future as bright as their smiles thanks to our help.


Copyright © 2009 GottaLoveMom CJ Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.


  1. What an incredible experience for your family. I wish all of my students could visit a place such this one. Maybe it would help them appreciate their education more. I can only give them examples of the poverty I saw growing up in Central America, but their is nothing like experiencing it first hand. Thumbs up from a teacher.

  2. My kids didn't realize that while helping other kids, they in turn learned a lot more from that experience.

    Remember when Brad Pitt hosted that concert to get people aware of poverty? It amazes me that some people can't even imagine how blessed they are. Some of them needed a celebrity-studded concert to realize that there are people living in poverty.

    Xelavee, I bet you're such an awesome teacher...definitely changing someone's life.

  3. Honey,
    Thank you for sharing this story.
    I am so proud of what we do. Saving children, one child at a time, will make a difference.
    Perhaps this story will inspire another person to sponsor a child. We can only hope.
    Love, Mom

  4. What a powerful experience for your kids. It is so important to realize how lucky we are and do something to help those in need.

    P.S. Thanks for your comments on my blog!

  5. Your family is an inspiration to us all! This is such a wonderful story. I hope that when my kids are older, we are able to do wonderful things like this!

    I am following you from the MBFMC.

  6. Jen,

    SISBA if it expanded the social consciousness of Your One, Two, Three, and Four... and if the SISBA spirit stays on in their hearts, then SISBA has accomplished a purpose... Your kids have inspired my dear friend Sir Ernie Ancog to support two nice SISBA kids too (though one didn't last for long)... Thank you for making love spread, Jen! :))


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